MGM National Harbor Grand Opening Excitement Slows on Traffic Concerns

Posted on: October 13, 2016, 03:00h. 

Last updated on: October 13, 2016, 01:53h.

MGM National Harbor won’t open its $1.4 billion doors until December 8, but locals in the area are already voicing their frustrations over increased traffic expected to be generated by the casino resort.

MGM National Harbor traffic concerns
Traffic is already an everyday problem around the MGM National Harbor area, and the $1.4 billion resort hasn’t even opened yet. (Image: Luz Lazo/The Washington Post)

This week, residents in the National Harbor and Oxon Hill communities gathered with Prince George County officials to discuss remedial measures for the grand opening in December. The county government tried to reassure commuters traveling past the resort on their way across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to Washington, DC, that they’re making efforts to ease the added traffic to the already congested area.

Interstates 295 and 495 merge directly next to the resort.

Traffic engineers will monitor flows and adjust traffic signals on an as-needed basis. The county is also rolling out technology such as message boards on current conditions with alternative routes posted for travelers.

But Prince George County Police Chief Henry Stawinski III didn’t sugarcoat the situation.

“There will be traffic. There will be congestion. Traffic will not always flow at the posted speed limit,” Stawinski told the community. “There is going to be a lot of people coming to this venue. They are going to want to see it.”

Playing in Traffic

MGM National Harbor is just 10 miles southeast of downtown Washington, DC. MGM CEO Jim Murren is hoping to attract not only the Northern Virginia and DC crowd, but also make the casino a resort destination that caters to tourists.

The 23-acre property will feature 308 guestrooms, meeting and wedding space, spa, retail shops, restaurants, and 125,000-square-foot casino floor.

Plopping those offerings smack in the middle of the second most congested metro in the US, and citizens are justified in their apprehensions.

“There is just going to be traffic regardless of what they try to do,” local resident Mark Woodford told the Washington, DC, ABC affiliate. “Going to be ridiculous.”

Stawinski’s police department announced it will have nearly 200 officers on the ground during the opening week to manage traffic at different intersections. A police helicopter will help those on the ground determine which arteries need opened and which can be slowed.

“Two years worth of work and study leads me to a place where I am very confident that we are prepared,” Stawinski explained. “We are asking the community to be very patient with us, particularly in the first 72 hours.”

Stuck in Traffic

In New Jersey, the upcoming casino referendum facing voters to authorize two land-based casinos in northern counties of the state is also generating traffic concerns.

Groups opposing the state constitutional amendment say increased traffic to already busy roads would wreak havoc on northern Jersey. Supporters of casino expansion countered by saying most visitors would use public transportation.

That might be true should the casino be placed in the Meadowlands across the Hudson River from Manhattan.

But in DC, where the public grid simply can’t matchup to the infrastructure in New Jersey and New York City, the anticipated 10,000 additional daily vehicles traveling to National Harbor will without question take its toll.

MGM gets going on December 8, the same day traffic will likely come to a screeching halt on Interstates 495 and 295.